Applying to the AFCS / Making a claim under the AFCS
Part 2

  • Filling in the form;
  • Sides of the brain;
  • Black pens;
  • Telephone notes & proofs of receipt;
  • Coincidence;
  • Contractors; and
  • Time limits

How to fill in the claim form

"... Noooo! Get to the chopper!"

The section on Page 2 of the AFCS guidance notes titled "How to fill in the claim form" is so woefully inadequate you would get more help from IKEA's instructions on how to build a BILLY bookcase.

This is all it says:

  • "Please use black ink to fill in the form. Please make sure you put your name, and National Insurance Number at the top of any documents or extra pieces of paper you send."

I suppose it's technically close to "how" to fill in the form. It would be nice to have a little more guidance, however, from the 'guidance notes,' as to the sort of thing you need to put in the boxes.

The form does give an example in the form of a broken arm, but I could probably have managed to fill it in for that. A broken arm is a broken arm. Quite why it's so vital to emphasise in bold that you must state which side of the body your injury is on, I really don't know.

Photo by Semyon Borisov on Unsplash

How to fill in the claim form (cont)

  • Form:
    • 'Part 3 - Your claim
      • Please list details of your conditions / injuries / illnesses in the table below:
        You must make it clear which side of the body the injury relates to, for example left leg, right arm.'
  • Me:
    • Condition / Injury / Illness you are claiming:
      • Mental disorder? Broken left brain? That's my accurate, analytical, logical side isn't it? Or is my right side broken? I don't feel like I have boundless imagination any more, I still like art and music but the passion for them have gone. Aaargh! But I must make it clear which side is injured! What do I do?"
    • Diagnosis:
      • PTSD, I think.
    • Onset date of condition / injury / illness:
      • I don't bloody know! It could have been any time! It didn't just switch on.
    • Please explain why you feel it was caused by service:
      • Pull up a sandbag old pal, 'cos this 'ere form is not long enough for that story...

Photo by Robina Weermeijer on Unsplash

How to fill in the claim form (cont) (cont)

I think you get the idea. This section of the form is very far from easy to complete for mental injury, and probably any physical injury beyond something simple like a broken arm because a box fell on you. (If you 'supplied' instead of 'stored' then the boxes wouldn't be as heavy, eh, stackers? #justsaying)

It's another reason I'd have looked to a lawyer to help if I hadn't already done so at this point. Veterans UK would say "ask the Veterans Welfare Service for advice." I had tried that before, and was told I was too late to claim. When I explained how 'date of knowledge' worked in negligence, they said "well, just send in the form and we'll take a look."


Photo by Muhammad Amer on Unsplash

Practical tips

  • I recommend taking notes of calls. You can do it afterwards, as long as you do it straight afterwards, but write down the date and time of the call, the name of the person you spoke to, and what they said or what your understanding of the call was. You can do this on your phone in a notes app, or email it to yourself. I did it when I was a lawyer for every call, and it makes life a lot easier later on if the call becomes important, both for recall and for proof.
  • Ask for proofs of receipt for anything you send to Veterans UK. If you don't get it, keep asking for it. Here's why:
    • My solicitor sent Veterans UK a report and comments from a psychologist one December.
    • Getting no proof of receipt, he chased them for it until he got an email at the end of January confirming receipt.
    • At the end of September, yep nine months after getting the report, the Veterans UK case handler said they'd never received the report.
    • Presented with the emailed confirmation of receipt, Veterans UK looked a bit harder, and found the report they had printed but not filed. They had therefore assumed it did not exist, and did no work on my case. For nine months. This was at the time of the pandemic that they explicitly said they could not give updates on individual cases and so you should not contact them. They were dealing with all cases in chronological order.
    • It's another very good reason to have a solicitor. If you're doing it yourself though, get proofs of receipt.

Life is complicated. 

Don’t let Veterans UK excuse themselves because you, like everyone else, have other coincidental real shit going on.

I left my job as a lawyer thinking I couldn't cope with it, in large part because my life got complicated as the parent of a child with special educational needs (SEN). I began helping to care for my little one, and started writing a novel, a job that was flexible and required no social interaction so that I could keep on top of my anxiety. Those are sensible and valid responses to life challenges (so says my therapist.) I later found out that I had underlying, undiagnosed PTSD which made caring for a SEN child while working for a big law firm exceptionally difficult if not impossible.

To Veterans UK, though, I have, "for personal and family reasons... opted to leave paid work and to home parent and work on a novel."

I believe the Scots have an eloquent and appropriate phrase that goes something like "get tae fuck."

If they try and say your mental injury is down to relationship problems not service cause: who the hell hasn't had relationship problems because of service life?

Alcohol abuse: the drinking culture in the military is powerful and positively encouraged.

You get the picture. If you have PTSD, your life is unlikely to be blue skies, rainbows and rivers running with chocolate. Veterans UK cannot say your problematic life outside military service is the cause of your problems without evidence. If you have a mental injury caused, or made worse, by service then you are eligible for an AFCS award. You may have a mental injury that predates, coincides with or came later than the mental injury caused by service. That may be difficult to unpick, but that's why people get paid (and medical advisers at Veterans UK get paid a fucking lot from what I understand, see below) to assess AFCS claims. Just because the picture is complicated does not mean Veterans UK get to uncomplicate it by denying your service caused injury and your claim.

Briefly re MA's pay. There is an FOI response (FOI 2017/09875) which is open source on the interwebs and states that "all the MAs working for Veterans UK hold the Ministry of Defence civilian Grade 6." I almost love how diversionary and nefarious this response is. I've tried before to work out what an MoD Grade 6 is without success. Having looked again, the term 'Grade 6' is considered a Civil Service equivalent grade, which MoD actually calls 'B1.'

The Institute for Government explains that broadly, there are five civil service job grades, and that grades 6 and 7 civil servants tend to be experienced officials with significant policy responsibilities. Grade 6 is the higher of the two.

In response to a question in Parliament the MoD confirmed that in 2020 the pay for a Grade 6 / B1 civil servant in the MoD was nationally a minimum of £62,528 and a maximum of £71,728, and in London a minimum of £65,044 and a maximum of £74,597.

Photo by Roman Mager on Unsplash


 If you've gone and worked the circuit after leaving the military, don’t let Veterans UK try and pin your illness or injury on your subsequent contracting work. 

I imagine this may be an as yet unseen group of ex-serving personnel eligible for AFCS awards. People who have gone straight into close protection, private security or the like, and have therefore carried on in a similar line of work without the metaphorical moment of exhalation and contemplation upon joining real civvy life, when the magnitude of what you've seen and done finally catches up with you.

If your contracting work comes to an end a few, or many, years after leaving HM Forces, and you have that moment, and you freak out or get depressed, please speak to someone. I've put a couple of links on the mental health page here.

If you had a non-freezing cold injury, knew about it but didn't mention it because you didn't want to be denied the contracting work due to a medical issue, and it's over 3 years ago, you're probably not going to be able to claim AFCS (although I don't know that for sure, so ask a lawyer). 

If you haven't known you had mental issues, or mental issues of greater seriousness than you thought, until the armed world you've carried on living in stops for you to get off, then please get help, both in the form of treatment and also with advice regarding AFCS. 

If your mental injury was caused or made worse by your previous military service, but sat dormant because you were still pushing yourself in demanding roles, it was still caused or made worse by the military. If it was subsequently made worse by experiences contracting, that's for a shrink to pick apart and explain what did which damage. This is another reason Veterans UK aren't competent to assess these complicated mental injury claims when they aren't psychologists or psychiatrists with experience of military mental injury.

There may be some who have been beaten and / or bullied as a kid; joined the army and maybe been bullied there in training; joined a regiment and become an amazing soldier and leader, protecting civvies, subordinates and commanders alike. They may have deployed repeatedly, and experienced one or many traumatic events including physical injury, and / or witnessing the violent death of friends, soldiers or civilians. They may have returned home to an unfaithful partner, or emotional domestic abuse, or simply the loss of a relationship because they changed so much across their tours that they were no longer the same person. So they go off to do private security after leaving the mob, and see more horrible shit.

This is all traumatic, but if military service caused or made worse any of the mental injury, you are entitled to an AFCS award.

Photo by Cameron Venti on Unsplash

Time limits

Generally speaking, you have 7 years to make an AFCS application / claim. 

Then it gets a bit bloody confusing. If you're claiming for mental injury, you have 7 years from first seeking help for your condition, rather than necessarily the date of an incident causing the injury. This gets even more confusing if you don't have an isolated incident as the root cause, but a multitude of causes across your service. 

If you have a late onset illness after the 7 year limit, like some mental injuries, then you have three years from the date you first become aware of the illness. It's very much specific to the facts of your injury, and another example of how the process gets complicated and, in my humble opinion, beyond the 'expertise' of Veterans UK. Heavy sarcasm inbound: But, as VUK say, "you do not need a paid representative such as a solicitor or claims management company to apply for compensation."

Rhymes with "Pollux" (like in Face/Off)

Limitation periods

I have a big gripe with the whole issue of time limits for AFCS. 

In civil cases they have limitation periods to bring certainty and finality in litigation. This is to avoid parties arguing over historic events, where it might not be a possible to have a fair trial if relevant documents have legitimately been destroyed. 

This is evident, for example, in clinical negligence. If you are over 18 you have 3 years from the date of injury, or from the date of knowledge of that injury, to bring your claim. 

This theoretically prevents asking a doctor, for example, to try and remember what they did over three years ago, and stops them worrying that an old mistake they have no awareness of might pop up at any time and lead to a court case. I can understand both sides of the argument. Doctors know litigation (being sued) exists and they have insurance for it, and they know they should make good medical records even though there isn't really enough time. Members of the public don't know to make notes, and don't know about litigation, medical indemnity insurance, and limitation periods.

As for AFCS,  we keep coming back to the fact there is no Defendant. It's not a civil case, there are no witness statements where memory of events is a requirment. It's theoretically all based on the records. If you lose a leg to an IED and it's in your service records, there is no reason for there to be a time limit on your claim. Annual payments are not backdated to the date of injury, they start from the date of claim. The time limit is another unfairness.

Photo by Heather Zabriskie on Unsplash